Sunday, March 30, 2008

Snow Riding at Chena Lakes

High today: 37
Low today: 9

In February when I went measuring ice depth for work, we stopped at Chena Lakes to measure the depth of the ice there.. and I immediately thought about how fun it would be to go biking out here in the winter. Today, Debbie and I went to try it out! Debbie JUST bought a new bike (HOORAY!) so we broke it in for its very first ride.
In most places, the snow was AWESOME. There were some crunchy, deeper parts, but overall the pack was in fantastic shape for snow riding. Unless your name is Julie, and you stop focusing for a split second and wipe out in a snow ditch...
I looked kind of silly with my poagies but after yesterday's cold ride I decided to bring them.. they are very handy for stashing extra clothes too, or storing clothes if you get too warm. The latter happened to us today.
Debbie is having a fun time on her shiny new bike. It was still pretty darn shiny 2.5 hours later too.. things aren't very dirty at Chena Lakes yet!I had fun trying out the "non-trail", aka the crunchy deeper snow pack that wasn't as packed down. You need to keep your momentum going to really push through it. There were a lot of "aaaaaagh" noises while riding through it.

When we were headed back to the car.. we couldn't help but notice a ramp built up by the snowmachiners. I tried it out a few times - nearly impossible to get any air because I couldn't get enough speed riding up to the ramp. We needed a downhill to the ramp to really have some fun times!
Debbie decided to give it a shot, too. If you zoom in on her face, it's priceless!A friend mentioned that we could ride all the way down to Nenana on the river and I'd like to do it.. not sure that I'll be able to before winter is over though. I guess there is always next year! Put it on the 'to-do' list.. the very very long 'to-do' list.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

You Can See the Bike Paths!

High today: 35
Low today: -5

Decided to ride south on the Parks Hwy today on a new bike path that was being put in when I was here this summer. It sure is nice having clear bike paths to ride on, but I now remember how much resistance my fat tires give to the pavement! The paths would be great for a cross bike. I look forward to the trails turning from their current in-between stage of ice to fun rocks and singletrack in another month and a half.

This isn't the new bike path, but this is the one I took every day last summer. It has only recently been plowed so that it's comfortably ridable again. There are only a few sketchy parts of the sidewalk left near the main intersection.
The new path down the Parks is pretty sweet. It goes south to Ester, so that is where I decided to go. By the time I got to Ester I was getting pretty cold, forgot about the wind chill factor when riding on pavement.
Here's a shot of the aurora behind IARC last night. It was being stubborn and not coming out of the horizon into the overhead sky. Still neat though! Last night marks the 4th day in a row of aurora viewing. Spoiled? Yes indeed! :-)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Arrival of the Pennsylvanian Scientists

High today: 27
Low today: 1

I was sitting before work trying to feverishly finish some last minute work when I turn around and there's very familiar faces that are not normally in the office - my former cloud physics prof/neighbor Dr. V and coworker Chad from PSU were here!! I was SO excited, I immediately stopped in the middle of my conversation with someone to get up and hug them, haha. I knew they were here as of last night but didn't expect to see them that early this morning. It was super fun introducing them to people here and then we went to Lemongrass (a very tasty Thai restaurant) for lunch. I forgot my camera (gasp!) so no pictures.. but I will take some over the next couple of weeks as this big research project happens. I guess something about showing people you knew for almost 5 years where you made it is reassuring. Sometimes I think we need that reassurance.. especially when you're still establishing your new life and still slightly attached to people far far away. Plus, I love Penn State and I will always be happy to relive something that stemmed from there. This grad school thing.. I won't be a "Nanook" ever.. Nittany Lion for life!!

Two more Penn Staters coming Sunday! I suggested we have a "reunion" lunch/dinner. Ok, well I am the one reuniting because they still put up with each other everyday... but you know what I mean :-)

On another note, no aurora pictures last night.. I completely passed out of exhaustion early. Maybe tonight??? And I know on my last post I said something about Thursday.. my brain calendar was off by a day.. well, in any case we were just making the point that the aurora has been active mainly on the weekends this winter. Happy weekend!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

High today: 21
Low today: -8

Something about Thursdays makes the aurora want to come out. As LeeAnn commented, maybe it's just working up a storm during the week and then BAM, it's Thiiiiiiiiirsty Thursday, and ready to party like a rock star. Ok, those weren't her exact words but something to that extent. Anyway, here it is, a bit more excited than last night! I would stay out all night driving around taking pictures but I'm on early shift tomorrow.. ahh shiftwork. Tomorrow night I bet it'll be out again. So stay tuned for a third aurora chase in a row. :-)

Settings just right

Well, now that I've figured out how to get decent shots of the aurora, all I need is a good aurora. Tonight was not the night. The aurora was out but it was fairly faint. These shots were taken with my Canon SD800 with the following settings: ISO 400, 13" shutter speed, I changed something under the exposure lighting by a nudge, a 2 sec. timer, and a tripod. I can't wait til I get a bright aurora to see what the Canon can do. :-) Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Enjoying the fresh snow

High today: 30
Low today: 6

On Sunday night, we got our first measurable snowfall in a long time. It was only 0.5 in, but it was still measurable and just enough to get the trails in better shape.Today was a beautiful clear day and I just couldn't let it slide by without hitting the trails at UAF. I took a new-to-me trail, the Ester Connector trail, which was lovely, flat and quiet.
It met up with the Skarland trail which I vaguely remembered someone saying was a rougher trail. But, I was in exploring mode so figured I'd give it a try. I went a good ways over some sticks and icy spots and fun little bumps, but the trail started getting crummy with litter (branches, pine needles, etc) so I turned back around and went back the way I went in. I need to take a few hours and just go all the way around the trails before the snow all melts!!
But then again, once the snow melts, and we give it two weeks or so to dry.. biking season begins again and I can have fun on the rocks - woohoo!

The aurora is supposed to be active the next few days, it's crystal clear out right now (but not dark yet), someone showed me how to change the shutter speed on my camera, and I have access to a tripod now so stay posted for some possible aurora shots!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Birthday shoutouts for the end of March!

Special birthday shoutouts to my niece Gretchen who turned 2 on the 16th, my sister Maria who turned a quarter of a century on the 20th, and my sister Patty who turned 32 on the 23rd. Sorry this is late kids!! :-) I have a picture of Gretchen on her bday but the latest picture I have of Patty and Maria were at my graduation in December so here they are!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Newest Addendums

High today: 25
Low today: 8
A lot has been happening lately and the months of April and May are going to be hectic and fun in so many ways. I've known for quite awhile that some of my PSU professors/colleagues would be here in April, but I just found out two more are coming too, including a former classmate of mine! There is a huge NASA/NOAA project going on for the International Polar Year (IPY) and there will be over 200 scientists in Fairbanks for the month of April from all over the place. I really look forward to this big project going on and hope to score a flight on one of the research planes. We will see though. At the end of April (maybe even mid) I'm going to be moving into a cabin (hopefully moving for the LAST time for awhile.. I am soooo sick of moving!) and I have a roommate who will be arriving May 1st. This girl and I have a mutual friend who thinks we'll get along well so I look forward to meeting her in May and having a new buddy to explore with. THEN May 10th my friends Aviva and Jud from PSU are visiting to explore Alaska which will be basically a week of backcountry fun. After that, I'm going to be starting some climate data rescue for a post-doc in my building and likely get to do some field work at the end of May and go cool places! Lots of big things coming soon and I'm excited to begin the madness.

p.s. AND I'm going ice climbing on the 5th... can't wait!!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

My last day in the "big city"

I would like to think that my trip to Anchorage was extremely successful.. having used all of the "toys" I took down there. Yesterday, Nikole and I attempted biking on some local trails but found that they were all sheets of ice, so we just rode around Palmer. Palmer is such a funny place because there are massive mountains sitting right there, but farms and cows all around. We finished off the evening by rockin' out on Rock Band. Fun times, man.. fun times.

This morning I met up with a former classmate/friend from PSU. He's stationed down at Ft. Rich and lives in Eagle River with his girlfriend, also a Penn Stater and excited to see PSU memorabilia other than their own! :-) We got breakfast early and then headed down to Anchorage to attempt some xc skiing at my old biking stomping grounds, Kincaid Park. Ian nor I are exactly awesome skiiers, so being that the trails were just an entire sheet of ice, we both had some pretty crazy spills throughout our short time skiing. Ian thought it would be fun to take videos of each other going down the icy hills, but instead of me wiping out on video, he did instead. So, because he is a good sport, here is a replay of his ridiculously ungraceful spill:

We attempted to put the camera on a flat part of the snow.. but it wasn't exactly flat, and I barely got back to be in it (without wiping out!) before the timer went off.Mount Susitna, also known as the "Sleeping Lady" was out on this beautiful day...

Kristen and Ian enjoying the nice day
After stopping at another former coworkers' house and going back to Palmer to grab my stuff and say goodbye to my awesome hosts, I was back on my way home north.
Denali wasn't out again but most of the other mountains were.
A great breath of fresh air but now it's back to work!

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Day Skiing in Girdwood

Girdwood is hands down, one of the most fun places in Alaska that I've been to. This is where I went paragliding last summer. If you followed my blog this past summer then you'll remember the story of the falling shoe. If not, you should check it out -the link to the old blog is on the right! Alyeska is a big ski resort in Alaska, in fact the only large ski resort in Alaska (I think) unless Juneau has one.. It's located just off of the Seward Hwy with a beautiful view of the Turnagain Arm. Nikole and Cameron came down with me and we met up with Kristen to enjoy the slopes.
Is this real? Am I actually skiing at a real mountain resort??
Kristen had a bit of an encounter with a small spruce tree.. here's a (slightly) dramatized version of the result state.
"Ooooooooooo!" is exactly what came out of my mouth with big excited eyes when we saw this person ski-paragliding.. Nikole's immediate reaction was "oh goodness...". Haha.. maybe someday. :-)
Kristen, Nikole and Cameron ready to get an early well-deserved dinner!
Kristen took me up chair #1 which takes you pretty high up on the mountain. It was the highest we could get to for night skiing. Apparently night is after 5pm.. I thought it was when it got dark!! I guess that whole lack of darkness thing is beginning to be a problem around here.
There was just a GIANT bowl of snow to play in at the top of the lift. It was by far my favorite part of the mountain. There was barely anyone up there when we got there!
Kristen ready to bomb down the bowl.. she is a beast of a skiier!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Some Parks Hwy Lovin'

After some indecisiveness about heading down to Anchorage for spring break, I couldn't stop thinking about driving the Parks and realized that I won't get a break like this again for awhile, so rolled on out early Thursday.
I couldn't wait to get past Denali to see the mountains in the "winter". The road was completely clear though, which made for a very very nice trip.
After taking a pit stop in Cantwell, I continued driving trying to estimate my arrival time in Anchorage. The skies COMPLETELY cleared up and every jut of mountain was visible. Then one beast in particular began to show its face and I almost died of excitement.
This is Denali, the grand beast of North America, sitting at 20,320 feet, or 6194 meters. Of all the times I've driven the Parks, I've seen it three times, only one other time in CRYSTAL clear conditions... and at the time didn't even know what I was looking at. Tourists come up here for a week or two expecting to see the mountain but go home not seeing it because it is often obscured by clouds. In all my excitement I actually drove past the good picture-taking lookout for the mountain. Oh well! I think these turned out alright...
This is me being really excited about Denali being out. I totally didn't expect it because my mind was elsewhere.One of these things is not like the other! Can you find it??
I tried driving up to the Princess lodge that has a good view of Denali but they had a gate up for the winter. I turned around and still got a pretty good view of it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Happy 70th Birthday Dad!

Special shout-out to say Happy Birthday to my Dad. You made it to 70! Happy Birthday and have a wonderful day! :-)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Happy 2 Months, Fairbanks!

High today: 42
Low today: 10
Well Fairbanks, we've made it together a whole two months today. I'm able to bike again to work without worrying about cars sliding on ice and into me at intersections, for the most part. We have daylight until almost 8:30pm now instead of 3:30pm when I got here in January. The skies are looking more like summer than winter. Spring is coming faster than it's supposed to. Next winter will be the true test of my ability to handle the cold and darkness, but this second half wasn't so bad at all. I just hope that we get a second wind of winter weather before summer comes. Don't melt, snow!! Come baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack. Happy 2 months, Fairbanks.